'Pack mentality' stops gay footballers coming out

Former Leeds winger Robbie Rogers claims he could not have continued his career after coming out as gay last month due to the "pack mentality" that changes the way footballers behave.

The 25-year-old United States international announced his decision to step away from the sport last month after declaring his homosexuality, becoming only the third player to do so.

Rogers, who ended his career on loan at Stevenage, does not believe footballers are homophobic, but said the culture within the game makes it impossible for openly gay players to continue in the sport.

"In football it's obviously impossible to come out," Rogers told the Guardian.

"A lot of my friends are footballers and I can't speak for all of them, but a lot of them are caring and sensitive and are interesting people with different layers, but when they get into that football culture they all turn into the same person almost.

"I have talked to a lot of people how footballers aren't homophobic, or at least not the ones I have come across. It's very much that pack mentality and saying something to make your buddies laugh on the bench or in the locker room.

"Coaches say things to be funny and to get along with the players. Of course there are times you hear it and it sounds malicious and in your head you're like: 'Excuse me', but of course you don't say it. It's a bit weird but after hearing so many comments, that's when I think, I'm right. I can't come out."

Rogers joined npower Championship side Leeds in January last year but was blighted by injury and left the club by mutual consent three months ago.

The California-born midfielder believes it will take more time and a change in culture for more footballers to be open about their sexuality.

"I know it will change and there will be gay footballers no doubt," Rogers added. "I just don't know when or how long it will take.

"That's the next step. The next step is to create an atmosphere where men and women can feel okay to come out and continue to play and be themselves.

"Football has so much history so it's about what changes you make but it's about keeping it the same because it's such a great sport. There is so much culture and the fans love their tradition so it's a tough one. I'm positive that slowly there will be changes."

Before Rogers' admission last month, only two professional footballers are known to have publicly said they were gay.

Former England U-21 international Justin Fashanu was the first professional footballer in Britain to come out in 1990 before he took his own life eight years later, aged 37.

The only other player known to have announced his homosexuality is Swedish lower league player Anton Hysen, who did so in an interview with a Swedish football magazine in 2011.

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